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My house is a sieve!

Post in 'The Green Room' started by lml999, Nov 5, 2013.

  1. DevilsBrew

    DevilsBrew Minister of Fire

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    Windows.

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Linux :)
  3. wannabegreener

    wannabegreener Member

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    I agree on the MASS SAVE program. I used NH SAVES and wow. I have been doing upgrades to my house since i have owned it. It is hard to know what caused the biggest bang for the buck, but air sealing was certainly a huge improvement. I replaced all of the windows and the house was so leaky, the new windows didn't do anything. When NH saves came in, the were initially blaming the windows, but it was my attic. I don't think I would have increased the efficiency by just air sealing the attic if I hadn't already done the windows, but every little bit helps. I think my results are pretty impressive, but I'm still trying to make it better with a house that is 30 years old.

    Worst year for OIL = 1116 gal
    Worst year for Electicity = 11131

    Best year (last year)

    OIL = 263 = 25% or a savings of 75%
    Electicity = 7344 = 66% or a savings of 34%

    New boiler - system 2000 saved about 26%
    wood insert saved about 25%
    solar hot water and attic air sealing done at the same time = about 25%

    My goal for oil was for 1 tank of fuel per year. I am just over that now. Still hoping I can get there.
    My goal for electricity was for a PV system that the state of NH thinks is normal - 5KW I think, I'm still over that but trying

    My MIL lives in MA and we have had MASS SAVE there. If you have them do the work (or one of their contractors) you get a discount on the work they do. There was just too much junk in her attic at the time (40+ years of junk) that I need to clean out before the work can be done. Still working on cleaning it up. Maybe will have the work done at her house next year. I seem to remember that the discount was a 75% discount. The discount in NH was only 50%.

    Once I had my attic sealed, it was amazing how much tighter my house was. I could tell that the draft for my insert was no where what it was before. It still drafted, but the house was much smokier.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Woodgeek, I have read a few articles claiming a lot of winter (and year round) respiratory ailments are the result of houses that are sealed to tight, as is the present norm. Arguments have been made that those living in leaky houses may have better short term and long term respiratory health.

    For those of you with insulated shades, how is your interior window paint holding up? Usually, the insulating shade results in very cold glass, upon which your more humid indoor air will condense. This is a big problem for me, whenever I have a storm window removed. There's a reason insulation is installed with the vapor barrier to the inside, in colder climates.
  5. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    We haven't read the same stuff. I think relative humidity is the bigger factor. They used to think 'cold season' was from us all being cooped up in the winter making transmission easier. Now it seems that low indoor humidity is what does it, by making all our membranes runny AND by allowing germs on surfaces/air to survive longer (in a dry 'mummified' state). When I started out, my house airsealing was so bad, I couldn't bump the humidity at all even with a big humidifier. Now a modest one can keep me at 30-35%RH all winter long, and my family is a lot healthier. And if one of us gets something, the rest don't always get it, so I am a believer.

    That said, indoor air quality (IAQ) is really a cutting edge topic these days, and not simple either. I think within 10-20 years attached garages will be seen as an issue (e.g. prob requiring pro airsealing and certification at resale), gas stoves/ ovens will need to have dedicated forced exhaust ventilation, smokers in the house? oh boy. After the energy pros were done with my house it is tighter than ever, specifically my ACH50 = 5, which is right on the edge where folks say you need mech ventilation. (I got to ACH50 7-8 myself DIY, from a barn-like >20 earlier) I ended up cracking a couple windows during the fall weather to keep the place 'fresh', but in the winter there will still be plenty of stack-effect driven ventilation.

    Of course, this is not an either-or thing. We are moving to a world that is tight AND ventilated with HRVs. HRV prices right now are set at 'yuppy-early adopter' levels. IOW, a good one can cost thousands. They are simpler than refrigerators, and somehow cost 5X more. With my allergies, I'd love it if all the air in my house was filtered before it came in from outside, and the place was tight and positive pressure otherwise. IN 10-20 years that might be the norm. And health concerns, not energy efficiency, will be the driver in the end, IMHO.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
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  6. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    We've had an HRV in our house since it was built 18 years ago. Paid around $600 for it then, it was a leftover model. I was casually looking at the local building supply last week while I was there, new ones on the shelf around $900 that had way more filtration features than our current one.

    Hardly new tech, and shouldn't cost thousands? Unless we're talking about different animals? Of course that is just the unit, ducting is needed too.
  7. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I installed a monster HRV system in a photolab in 1984. The unit was about 4'x8'. It was leading edge tech back then almost 30 yrs. ago.
  8. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, there are cheaper units out there....In a HCOL area like mine, having a pro install will put it into the thousands, and then they will upsell you a cadillac unit, etc.

    Right now I am on the fence about what to do for ventilation. In option 1 I can DIY install an intake vent, a filter box and a 60 cfm blower with a timer/controller for a few hundred bucks. The house would have guaranteed nice IAQ in the mild seasons, reduced outdoor allergens, and I could just turn it off in the cold weather. Option 2 is DIY install a full HRV, perhaps at higher CFM, run in the winter, etc, for even better IAQ. Adds close to $1k to the cost and complexity to the install, and I just don't see the rationale. Even if my house were airtight, so I needed mech vent in the winter, the energy savings of option 2 over 1 would be ~$100/year, marginally justifying the HRV cost.
  9. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Adding HRV in a retrofit situation would be another whole bunch of considerations. Pretty hard to get things ducted to every room the way they are SUPPOSED to be. It was bad enough getting mine all run when I only had the bare framing to worry about.
  10. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Woodgeek, re: winter sickness, there are many more factors, the simple lack of sun-driven vitamin D production, a major factor for anyone in the north. However, I am a believer that we humans have not spent millions of years adapting to life in an airtight living space, built of and wrapped in chemical laden materials. Seal tight, then ventilate? Maybe I'm just way ahead of the curve, with my zero-carbon passive ventilation.

    It will be interesting to see how the grand kids of those living in a totally HEPA filtered environment turn out. Will their respiratory systems tolerate going outdoors?
    Bret Chase and Wildo like this.
  11. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Joful, you seem to missing the point. Its about controlled ventilation, not making houses 'airtight'. In old style construction (15-25 ACH50), the amount of fresh air varies from too little during mild weather to too much during cold weather to absurd levels during windy weather. And all that air is coming to you filtered through your dusty wall cavities and bringing in loads of humidity in the summer. In a tighter house (approximately where current code is, 5 ACH50), you get the right amount of fresh air more of the time, can humidify easily in the winter if you like, and if you want more fresh air, you just open a window. In an emerging future standard (say 1-2 ACH50), you would provide as much as fresh air (or more) than the current code house, 24/7, through an HRV, and still save net energy.

    None of these houses are airtight, and the newer ones should have better IAQ.

    Of course, the other side of the equation, sources of indoor pollution is important too.

    And I am a big believer in Vitamin D3.
    begreen and Joful like this.
  12. simple.serf

    simple.serf Feeling the Heat

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    One of the first things we found in our house when we moved in was that the curtains would move when the wind blew outside. We also found a 1/2 gap in our front door, and both sliding doors had no weatherstripping left. Add in the Zonolite, and we had some insulation/draftiness challenges. Start with the easy stuff, get the windows sealed up with the window rope seals and add insulation where and when you can.
    begreen likes this.
  13. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I read you loud and clear, woodgeek. Just playing Devil's Advocate. However, I will say that I've never owned a house with exterior wall cavities. Plaster on solid masonry is all I know, and a big part of the reason I'm a believer in letting it breath. No troubles with lack of humidity here, as a mud- stacked stone wall set in the earth provides plenty of capillary water to disperse. Moisture and mold is a huge problem for those living in colonial era houses, around here.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
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  14. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Yar. Based on the few stone houses I've seen, they seem to run pretty tight. The leakage they do have seems to be 'visible' in that it is associated with windows and obvious drafts. You might be closer to current code recs for airsealing than most 20th century framed houses.
  15. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    I never thought of it like that, but I'm sure you're right. If air does manage to somehow meander thru 18" of solid stone, the interior plaster is a continuous and impervious barrier. My drafts are entirely doors, windows, and soffets, in the stone part of this house.
  16. lml999

    lml999 Member

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    Okay folks, you got me motivated! I have some easy fixes -- holes/gaps in a couple of interior walls where plumbers/HVAC people made a mess, a few small foundation cracks (already filled), and some other basics. I'm going to knock those off a few at a time.

    I'm more concerned about the attic. Lots of recessed lights, central air vents and flexible ducts, some crap stored up there, a mix of flooring and bare joists...some exposed side wall, etc. I think that the recessed lights are the big offenders, just not sure what to do about them. Some of the fixtures have been updated to IC, so I can box them, a few of the others have not. Not easy moving around in the attic...low roof, some exposed roofing nails, just a bundle of fun!

    The Mass Save energy audit is a great idea...not sure whether it makes more sense to have them come in now, or after I've done a first round of fixes. I think the latter... :)
  17. mass_burner

    mass_burner Minister of Fire

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    In my LR/KIT/FR/DR I have 19 recessed cans. They were all dammed and isolated by mass save. There is only a 2d difference between ceiling temps of insulated vs. recessed light. You're looking for a baseline, so have them come in now. Its free to get the blower test and they compare this later to a blower test when all improvements have been done. They go into your attic and tell you what you need to do to have them do the work. Attic is the biggest bang and lowest cost, pretty much for cost of rolled bats for my attic I got 6 extra inches blown in celluse/labor, door sealling, attic sealing, basement sealing, they even made 2 attic entry doors with 2" foam and weather stripping.
  18. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I had 6 old style can lights in my celing, and I left them for the pros to do last. I figured they were about 1 sq. in. each, and I was more worried about the square feet of opening elsewhere. Other the obvious plumbing and chimney chases and open framing cavities, the next big thing is the top plates in the framing. In my case, every interior wall had a 2x4 plate on top, with an 1/8" drywall gap on both sides connecting the attic to the interior wall cavity. Times >100' linear of plates, this worked out to be several square feet of opening that I caulked myself. My energy pros approved my handiwork, and said they would have charged me ~$1500 just to do the plates.

    I am going to vote for calling in the pros early....in my piecemeal approach over several years, I had some balance issues when some parts of the house were tighter than others, and I had some framing shifts that cracked some drywall. There is something to be said for doing it all at once.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  19. Mpodesta

    Mpodesta Member

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    I feel the Pain!

    house is 130+- years old and EVERYTHING leaks :) lol

    During a bad storm, paper on the kitchen table would find there way onto the floor from the draft. My Ps50 stove does it's damnedest keeping the misses and I warm (oil steam boiler is murderous to run $$$$). I have Mass SAve coming DEC 14th to do what they do.

    In the mean time to help with heat loss, I sealed to doors and windows with weather stripping and this helped greatly. The windows are newer(installed about 10-15 yrs ago before my grandparents passed away) but the doors are ancient (few skeleton key). No instillation to speak of.
    Looking to get the house updated as best as possible (I had all the wiring redone and changed from knob n tube)


    Been quite the project thus far
  20. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    !!!
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  21. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    Windows& doors, seldom spoke about but needs to be done is to insulate seal the window /door frame. To do this you need to remove the interior trim, low expansion spray foam works well for this and seal the frame to wall interface, There is a gap left all the way around for shims to sq window/door in opening. seldom if ever on older homes is this sealed up. Attic: cellulose good, fiberglass bad - as temps drop fiberglass loses r value. no need to remove just add a couple inches of cellulose over the top this stops the air flow migration. Basement sill area best to do those cavities with foam either cut pieces to fit and use spray foam to seal the edges or a complete foam spray in. Batting of any type there becomes a rodent haven. Can lights need a fire retardant box over them to stop air flow and prevent contact with insulation - There pre mades around or diy options. then insulate over that. Drop down attic stairs are one of the biggest heat loss areas and the hardest to do much about.
  22. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Half of the doors in my house pre-date the invention of the rim lock (skeleton key "box lock"). I feel your pain.

    On the plus side, I can peer out thru the skeleton key hole, and see if someone's standing outside. :p
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  23. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    Silver linings, Joful.
    Plus, you have a nice air exchange thing going on.:p
  24. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    My exterior doors actually do have a pendant type shutter hanging over the skeleton key hole on the outside, which is usually in place, unless whoever used the door last slammed it too fast. The interior doors are peer-thru, though.

    You actually can see stuff thru those little keyholes (the theory of diffraction at work?), so those old-time Rascals and Stooges movies weren't stretching the truth that far.
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  25. Mpodesta

    Mpodesta Member

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    Yup, it is what it is.


    Problem with the setup is, every door is an unusual size, so nothing off the shelf can replace them without redoing all the jambs...........and the issue with that is, if I do anything with resizing, I could never match the Stain/paint/molding ect ect... that's there now
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